Post-lockdown, dealers which implement the ‘invisible’ service could well find themselves ahead of the curve in a world where customers will be wary and reluctant to venture into places which could increase their risk of infection.
With MOTs given a six-month extension and routine servicing delayed, workshops are likely to be handling pent-up demand for some time, but the more opportunity customers are given to manage vehicle servicing and repair needs at a distance, the better.
Of course, dealers will have already implemented several measures to keep employees and customers safe, such as social distancing, technicians at every other ramp, extended opening times, shift work, strict appointment times, screens in showrooms and service reception areas and protective seat covers for cars. But enabling aftersales needs to be undertaken with no physical contact with anyone at the dealership is likely to be welcomed by both customers and staff.
Much of the technology is already available and the business model already exists in parallel sectors, click and collect Amazon lockers are the obvious example. The big hurdle will be the change of mindset within the sector itself to implement initiatives to deliver the ‘invisible’ service.
According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the majority of adults (80%) stayed home as required by lockdown measures save for permitted reasons such as shopping, medical needs and daily exercise, from 24 April to 3 May 2020. It shows that people are willing to do what it takes to keep the virus at bay but could also reflect a reluctance to venture too far for fear of contracting covid-19 which will no doubt continue for many following the lifting of restrictions.
Pre-covid, research from Accenture already showed that nearly half of American drivers did not want to physically go to a workshop or dealer service location with 72% happy to pay a monthly fee to avoid doing so.
Essentially, the invisible service allows customers to book their car’s service online and manage the whole process via their smartphone, most likely via an app. They choose a time and location for drop-off and pick-up and keys can be either handed over physically or by utilising lockers similar to those at off-site airport carparks, requiring no contact with anyone at the dealership. Likewise, a courtesy car can be prearranged and those keys also accessed via the locker system. The return of the courtesy vehicle and vehicle collection can also be facilitated using the locker system in reverse.
The ability for a customer to have their car serviced without setting foot in the dealership in a post-covid world could well be a crucial futureproof measure that businesses need.